Friday, July 13, 2012

Glory-ology Definition Model

Everything God has made or communicated reveals his glory. It cannot be otherwise, for that which is made always bears the mark of its maker. Therefore, since glory is the expression of God’s being, then all he has made is marked by it. According to Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words (2006), kavod, the Hebrew term usually translated “glory” in the Old Testament, carries the ideas of the dignity and respect. The parallel term in the New Testament, doxa, carries the ideas of honor and splendor. Glory is an internal quality, externally expressed by its possessor. Like any expression, it can be distorted or misunderstood, but expression persists. Since God’s glory is necessarily expressed through all he has made and communicated, humanity, as created in his image, necessarily engages that glory. How does this engagement take place?

A Proposed Model of Glory-ology

I propose that human engagement with glory runs along three vectors: within, in, and out. Along the within-vector, humans live as images of God's glory (Gen 1:26-27), though the choice to sin (Gen 3) has damaged this imaging in a way that no mere human can repair. Humanity in Christ is called and enabled to live each moment of life--interior and exterior--as an engagement within God's glory (1 Cor 10:31). Even in those outside of Christ the shadowed reflections remain. The in-vector and out-vector equip Christians to live within and proclaim God's glory.
Along the in-vector, humans engage God’s glory as it is reflected in his self-revelation. Most Christians will think first of the Bible (Ps 19:7-14), God’s written revelation, as reflecting his glory, but there is much more. God has also revealed his glory in nature (Ps 19:1-6) and in humanity (Ps 8). Learning to see and understand God’s glory in creation and in humanity is just as important as learning to see and understand it in Scripture. These three avenues of God’s self-revelation--Scripture, nature, and humanity--are incomplete; none gives the whole picture. The one ultimate avenue of God’s self-revelation remains: God incarnate, the Son, Jesus (John 1:14-18). Jesus, as described in Scripture and as known in personal and communal relationship, is the final, norming revelation of the Father (John 14:6-7). The meaning and significance of all other avenues of revelation are understood only and always in relation to Jesus. Humans bear God’s glory within and perceive his glory in his revelation. The out-vector tells us what Christians are to do with the glory engaged on the within-vector and the in-vector.
Along the out-vector, humans engage God’s glory as they ascribe glory back to God (Ps 29). To “ascribe” is to give credit or to think of a characteristic as belonging to someone or something ( It is an expressed intention of the mind, a way of thinking and speaking about someone or something. The worship gathering is the first context most Christians will think of, but the act of ascribing glory to God fills all of life. Each floor cleaned, each paper written, each product produced, each idea created, each hug given, each reprimand spoken can be an act of ascribing glory. Whole-life worship is the true expression of humanity’s delegated glory.
Along these three vectors, all humans encounter God’s glory and along these same vectors Christians are called to engage God’s glory. The quality and results of this engagement will vary according to each person’s motive and relationship with Christ, but the engagement is required nonetheless. God’s glory is obvious and there is no acceptable excuse for missing it (Rom 1:20). We need only learn to see and understand.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Glory of God, by Arthur Michael Ramsey

On a given Sunday, the word ‘glory’ or its linguistic equivalent is likely used thousands of times in churches across the globe.  We sing it with emotion.  We speak it with force.  But do we understand its richness?
In the scant 92 pages of The Glory of God, Arthur Michael Ramsey journeys through a biblical meaning of ‘glory,’ from Torah through Revelation, countering what he perceives as an inadequate understanding of glory among Christians. In this short work, Ramsey seeks to inform his readers and to persuade them that the New Testament understanding of glory, founded on the Old Testament usage of kavod and centered on the person of Christ, functions as the unifying concept in Christian doctrine and worship.  In the Old Testament, “glory” (kavod) communicates God’s power, radiance, character, and presence, often through physical manifestations like the burning bush and the cloud at Sinai.  In the New Testament (doxa), physical manifestations are minimized and the encounter with God is centered on and fulfilled by Christ, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3 ESV).  The one who trusts Christ encounters his glory in the content of faith and in direct fellowship with Christ through the Spirit, responding in the proclamation of Christ’s glory in personal and communal worship.
Chapter one shows how the Old Testament idea of glory (kavod) holds transcendence and presence in tension.  Here God’s comprehensible attributes and his incomprehensible beauty, his immanent presence and un-enterable splendor are intertwined.
Chapter two moves on to the New Testament, where glory (doxa) expounds the ideas of character and radiance-splendor from the Old Testament usage of kavod, as glory founded in creation, centered in the Gospel, and moving toward the Kingdom.  Though the classical Greek notion of reputation may have had some influence, Ramsey finds that the use of doxa in the New Testament reflects its use in the Septuagint, as the Greek translation of kavod.  So, while maintaining the Old Testament elements, the New Testament clarifies an aspect of glory that was shrouded in the Old Testament: the centrality of Christ.
In chapter three, Ramsey begins to define ‘glory’ in terms of the person of Christ.  Glory, as revealed in Christ through the Gospels (especially Mark) is entered through suffering and humiliation, sealed in resurrection, and consummated in the Parousia. 
In chapter four, leading up to what he sees as the clearest communication of Christ's glory in the writings of John (chapters 6 and 7), Ramsey focuses on glory in the writing of Luke (mission), Peter (suffering), and the writer of Hebrews (cross), and in chapter five, he turns to the writings of Paul, where glory is God's character and power, revealed in Christ's person and participated in by the Church.  Paul nearly merges the physical manifestation with the glory experienced in the face of Christ.  Christ’s glory, made known in his earthly Passion and future Parousia is the context in which the Church lives her life and understands her own suffering.
Chapters six and seven unpacking the idea of glory in the writings of John, form a climax for Ramsey.  In the beginning of John's gospel, glory is expressed in the paradox of the incarnation: the Word made flesh, who created everything and gives life to all creatures, who epitomizes and exceeds prophetic expectations, shrouds his glory in suffering flesh, so that only those who trust and follow him are able to understand.  Later in John's writings, the disciples share in Christ's glory by sharing in his service to and worship of the Father in self-giving love (chap 7).  The Holy Spirit works in and through the church, expressing Christ’s glory through the church’s life and proclamation.  This proclamation of Christ’s glory by the Spirit is the mission in which the church is now engaged.
Beginning in chapter eight and continuing through chapter nine, Ramsey integrates his extended definition of glory into Christian doctrine and worship.  Chapter eight shows how God’s glory is expressed in creation, the humiliation of the incarnation, the victory and expiation of the atonement, the participation of his people the Church, and the final destiny of his people and all creation in Christ.  Ramsey shows, in few words, how each doctrine expounds God’s self-giving glory, overflowing through his creation and most fully expressed in the giving of Son and Spirit.  This glory is present in the church, which experiences it as a foretaste of the final revelation, when glory will be unshrouded and all things will be made new.
Chapter nine shows how God's glory is expressed as his people glorify him in worship, proclaiming the love and judgment of God before the entire world.  As our worship is centered on Christ, looking back to his Passion, into his Presence, and forward to his Parousia, our acts of personal and communal worship make known Christ’s glory.  The church is both a witness to and expression of the glory of Christ, sealed by his glorious resurrection.
TheGlory of God is a good primer on glory for Christian teachers and worship leaders who are looking for a richer understanding of glory.  Ramsey provides a basis for and an example of the integration of the meaning of glory with our present understanding of doctrine and practice of worship and grounds this integration in a rich, biblically based definition of glory.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cooperation in creation can go either way

Humans, being made in God's image, are able to cooperate in creation much more than other of God's creatures. We do this in many ways, but one way is in shaping plants to suite our purposes. I give the following examples. Sometimes the beauty we are able to create is amazing, as in the rose below (a result of hybridization I am sure). Other times we reshape plants externally to fit our needs (as in the heavily trimmed olive trees seen below). I freely admit that I am not a fan of doing such dastardly things to a beautiful olive tree.

Sometimes human cooperation with God's creation enhances beauty.

Other times it's downright strange.

Monday, April 2, 2012 a strong man...

"The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, 
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, 
and, like a strong man,runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,  and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Music: Inside and Out

I am a musician (the mandolin and Les Paul in the picture are mine) and I love music inside and out. There is something glorious about it, by which I mean the notes in the air, the shared sound.

Consonance and dissonance play in orderly dance. When the players are skilled, the result can be amazing. Things can go off track, yet the players, listening to one another, capture the thread and the dance continues. In fact, those who are not players may never know, for the music carries on.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Persistence of Glory

I think I can imagine glory, but I am probably wrong. After all, how can one imagine glory in this land of stain and shadow? Yet we can, for even here, glory leaks out all over. It leaks in constant declaration. Everything that was spoken into being, every art of the human viceroy, the whole of it has no choice but to shout. The wordless proclamation continues however contorted the received message.

The one who spoke everything, who crafted the viceroy, is glorious beyond imagination. Indeed, for the unveiled soul, his glory is an undoing. The power of glory cannot be contained; its persistence cannot be hindered. It continues despite humanity's best efforts to ignore it. Glory leaks through every moment and all with ears to hear and eyes to seen will perceive the message.

Glory speaks as the sun glows amber at the horizon. It speaks in the slow elegance of the snail. It speaks in the simplicity of craft. It speaks in the wonder of a child. It speaks in the sorrow of loss. It speaks in work done well.

Creation cannot help but speak God's glory. It remains for us to learn to hear.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Are flowers just for reproduction?

If flowers were merely mechanisms for reproduction, I do not see the purpose of the beauty. In fact, it seems to be a waste of plant effort. The beauty speaks of something additional (note, not in place of, for reproduction is crucial and beautiful), something, dare I say, to be enjoyed by those who will understand the beauty. Flowers speak of something beyond what is visible, for appreciation is beyond what empirical science can see.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Angles + Vapor + Sunlight = Wow

Simplicity and complexity combine in the west and the colors shine from horizon to horizon, reflecting off every available surface. Amazing.